On October 30, 1974, 32-year-old Muhammad Ali became the world heavyweight champion for the second time when he knocked out 25-year-old champion George Foreman in the eighth round of the “Rumble in the Jungle”, a match in Kinshasa, Zaire. . Seven years earlier, Ali had lost his title when the government accused him of dodging the draft and the boxing commission stripped him of his license. His victory in Zaire only makes him the second dethroned champion in history to regain his belt.
The “Rumble in the Jungle” (named by promoter Don King, who originally labeled the fight “From slave boat to championship!” Until the President of Zaire got wind of the idea and ordered that all posters be burnt) was Africa’s first heavyweight championship match. The government of the West African Republic hosted the event – its president, Mobutu Sese Seko, personally paid each of the fighters $ 5 million just to show up – in hopes of drawing the world’s attention to the enormous beauty of the country and its vast nature reserves. Resources. Ali agreed. “I wanted to establish a relationship between black Americans and Africans,” he later wrote. “The fight was over racial issues in Vietnam. All that. ”He added,“ The Rumble in the Jungle was a fight that made the whole country more aware. ”
At 4:30 am on October 30, 60,000 spectators gathered in the moonlight (the organizers had timed the fight to overlap with prime time viewing in the United States) at the May 20 Outdoor Stadium to watch the fight. They chanted “Ali, bomaye” (“Ali, kill him”). The ex-champion had been making fun of Foreman for weeks, and the young boxer couldn’t wait to start. When the bell rang, he started hitting Ali with his hammer blows, but the old man simply leaned against the ropes and used his arms to block as many punches as possible. He was convinced he could wait for Foreman. (Ali’s trainer later called this strategy the “back rope,” because it was “a dope” for its use.)
In the fifth round, the youngster started to tire. His powerful punches became looks and taps. And in the eighth, like “a bee harassing a bear,” as one Times reporter wrote, Ali lifted himself from the ropes and launched a barrage of quick blows that seemed to confuse the exhausted foreman. A hard left and a right cut made the champion’s tired legs flex, and he dropped to the mat. The referee counted him with just two seconds left in the round.
Ali lost his title and regained it once more before retiring for good in 1981. He died in 2016. Foreman, meanwhile, retired in 1977 but continued to train, and in 1987, he became the oldest heavyweight champion in boxing history. Today, the affable Foreman is a minister and rancher in Texas and the father of five daughters and five sons, all named George. He is also the spokesperson for the incredibly popular George Foreman line of indoor grills.